AirWatch Review: A Possible Complete Enterprise Mobility Management System

airwatch

Included in this AirWatch review: Brief overview of MDM technology, AirWatch MDM review, and possible MDM challenges ahead.

**Note from FatStax** Over the past nine months, we’ve been seeing many of our larger clients installing MDM systems like AirWatch, Good, and MobileIron to name a few. This has led to an endless string of questions from clients and prospects about which MDM solution is best and whether FatStax will work within these systems (the answer is yes!). So not being shy, we set out to learn more about these providers and to attempt an unbiased MDM review. The task was more daunting than we thought, so we enlisted the help of writer and researcher Tom Bentley to help. So if you’re looking for an MDM or just want to learn more, welcome to the first installment of MDM reviews.

Businesses of every size depend on their extended, mobile and global workforces, armed with mobile devices from smart phones to tablets, many of them owned by the employees themselves (BYOD).

But marketers and sales leaders looking to deploy sales enablement tools are often unaware of the complexity involved in managing all those different devices? They just want iPads dang it!

A Mobile Device Management (MDM) system can help.

MDM solutions are employed by your IT department to manage apps, email, and shared workspaces across a range of devices, platforms, and operating systems. No matter whether the devices are BYOD or bought for employees by their companies.

Most Mobile Device Management systems have broad multi-user management and reporting features, are highly configurable across the device range, and scale to thousands of users. And, if all’s well and working, they secure every bit of critical corporate info (Yep, that means you that keeps leaving your iPad on the plane).

For your education purposes, this AirWatch review is written for organizations looking for an Mobile Device Management system to support tablets for field-based employees like sales reps.  However, sophisticated IT types may learn from it as well.

MDM Basics – What you need to know

For tablets like the iPad, some of the more compelling Mobile Device Management system components for both the enterprise IT manager and the end user would include:

  • Device Enrollment
  • App Management
  • “Containerizing” (separating work materials from personal stuff)
  • Security/encryption
  • Disaster recovery

And a critical issue that should stand alone: Mobile Device Management systems should offer the flexibility to adapt to change.

Flexibility no matter whether those changes are in the devices themselves, the companies that employ them (including the kinds of data they transmit, share and protect, and the scaling of that data), and the host of varying and evolving technical structures, such as operating systems, platforms, APIs and communication protocols.

AirWatch Review:

A Possible Complete Enterprise Mobility Management System

One of the bigger players in the MDM space is AirWatch, acquired by VMware in early 2014. Major customers include giants like AstraZeneca, Lowe’s, and United Airlines.

Here’s an AirWatch video that goes over system components and features.

A concern and complexity for companies working with mobile management is that many vendors offer single or limited-channel solutions for MDM: they might offer a containerization tool, but not a secure email client, so they’ll suggest a partner vendor for that add-on or separate deployment. AirWatch emphasizes that their offering is a comprehensive suite of integrated tools, for full enterprise mobility management (EMM) from a single console.

Such a suite has obvious management advantages, in terms of security, integrated UI, and ease of deployment, not to mention potential savings in cost and time.

airwatch review pic 1

AirWatch Device Dashboard

Let’s look at how the features of the AirWatch EMM system fit our MDM criteria list above:

Device Enrollment

Devices – AirWatch claims easy device enrollment, configuring and updating from a single management console. All of the significant platforms and operating systems are fully supported.

BYOD – AirWatch’s website explains their flexible BYOD handling that includes asset management and policy enforcement for easy, secure distribution of apps and content to employees personal devices.

airwatch review pic 2

App Management

Apps – The AirWatch system is designed to manage the full range of business apps from a central console. None of our clients have had any issues distributing their custom sales apps built on the FatStax platform via AirWatch. If you are planning to deploy a custom sales app via AirWatch or any MDM make sure to let your developer know as they have to tick some boxes in Xcode to get the apps to upgrade correctly.

Email – As FatStax relies heavily on the Mail App on the iPad, so we were glad to see our clients were able to configure email access through the native device client without too many issues. AirWatch also offers a “containerized” Inbox to separate personal email from company (we’d like to hear from you if your company is using this feature).

Browsing – Set, select and secure mobile browsing applications, including multiuser device management for shared devices. Yep AirWatch can keep your devices safe from invasive websites your team might visit on the road.

Containerize (Separation of work materials from personal materials)

AirWatch Workspace Management lets you segregate corporate and personal data on devices, while securing corporate resources and maintaining employee privacy. No one has reported any issues with FatStax, but I’d be curious to hear from end users how this works for you?

Security

IT will be happy because AirWatch offers end-to-end security over users, devices, applications, content, data, email and networks to protect corporate information. If I’m not mistaken they can also push a device wipe or lock down in case an employee loses it. Not sure how I would feel about that if it was my personal iPad, but it is question we get all the time with FatStax.

Challenges for all MDMs – (Not a reflection of AirWatch)

The MDM/EMM universe isn’t without its challenges.

There are no small numbers of users for these systems that express frustrations in app forums and discussion boards on various issues.

One issue that crops up again and again is that with some systems, device functions (and applications) are much slower, and battery life is much worse.

Many users are alsp concerned that even with strong containerization, their private content—emails, web browsing, texts—is still open for company review or even censure.

Other users are worried that the ability of the systems to do a full remote wipe of data will result in accidental loss of their information. And there were many voices that expressed concerns that blanket-use policies by companies wouldn’t take into consideration their individual device uses, needs and preferences.

Obviously companies need to show some sensitivity to individual employee needs, particularly when it’s a BYOD situation. Administrators and IT implementers need to have clear yet flexible policies that cover a broad range of situational and provisional uses of the devices when MDM systems are in effect.

And companies and users must be ready to face one of the invariants in this technological world: change is a constant.

AirWatch MDM Reviews/Feature Sets and AirWatch Pricing

Here are a couple of fairly recent and deep charts of MDM/EMM solutions, with breakdowns of their feature sets:

Enterprise iOS – Comparison of MDM Providers

Computerworld – MDM tools: Features and functions compared

Pricing information for AirWatch can be found on their website (AirWatch pricing) and ranges from $50 to $130 US per year depending on which suite you need.

(Note: FatStax is not affiliated with AirWatch, nor do we resell AirWatch or anything like that)

About J. Rusty Bishop, PhD

I've spent the last 5 years helping great brands create amazing experiences for their sales teams during one on one sales interactions. Helping sales people do their job is my passion. When I'm not working, I am on the ocean fishing in San Diego, Ca.